The Browns hope they strengthened themselves, while weakening their rival as the team’s first addition in free agency came via their in-state and division rival Bengals.
In a day that saw the Browns cut Eric Steinbach and lose Peyton Hillis to the Chiefs, the Browns were able to land Frostee Rucker, a 6-3, 280 pound defensive end from USC. Rucker is expected to compete for the starting job at right end opposite Jabaal Sheard. He played six seasons with the Bengals.
“Frostee is a player that we targeted in free agency and we couldn’t be happier that he chose to become a member of the Cleveland Browns,” GM Tom Heckert said in a release. “We really like the veteran presence that he will give our young defensive line.
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“He started last year for one of the top defenses in the NFL and we feel as though he can come in and have that same impact on our defense.”
Jayme Mitchell started the season at left end but was flip-flopped to the right side when Sheard was deemed better suited for the left side. He responded with 8.5 sacks. However, Mitchell struggled after the move and was replaced by Emmanuel Stephens midway through the season. However, Stephens was injured and finished the season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle.
Mitchell resumed as the starter and finished the season with 32 tackles and just 1.5 sacks. Stephens had 15 tackles.
Reportedly, Rucker signed a five-year, $21 million dollar contract, including $8 million guaranteed according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. If he’s not the starter, he is expected to be a key contributor in the rotation.
“We are excited to add a player of Frostee’s caliber to our team,” Pat Shurmur said. “He is an outstanding player and even a better person. I look forward to him being a productive member of the Cleveland Browns for years to come.”
Rucker, 28, had his best season in the NFL last year with 44 tackles and four sacks, including 11 tackles for loss in 11 starts. He has 105 tackles, including seven sacks in his career.
Stopping the run is considered to be Rucker’s strength with the Browns defense ranking 10th overall, but only 30th against stopping the run.